In the NFL, anything can happen—especially in rivalry games. This week, five games will be played between divisional opponents, and each one could be considered a rivalry contest.
When teams match up on a regular basis, they get a feel for what their opponent usually tries to do. Both teams are apt to try something outside of the ordinary in order to nab a victory.
Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the rival Dallas Cowboys by running the ball and executing short passes over the middle. If you don’t understand why that’s odd, you didn’t watch the Eagles last season.
Here’s my picks in three rivalry games this weekend.
New York Jets over Buffalo Bills
When doing picks, I usually put team records next to the first mention of a team name. However, in divisional games, the record doesn’t matter.
The Bills are the slight favorites in this contest, but the Jets have the experience of the making it to the AFC Championship the past two seasons. The Jets offense has been far from consistent this season, but their defense seems to have regulated itself in the last two weeks.
Buffalo is coming off a 23-0 win over the Washington Redskins, but the Bills weren’t really tested. The Jets defense will lock down the Bills offense. On offense, the Jets will do enough to get by as Mark Sanchez continues to mature.
Worth noting: The Jets have won the last three games against the Bills, outscoring them 95-34.
Oakland Raiders over Denver Broncos
I tried to think of a way to introduce this without discussing the over-analyzed Tim Tebow to start, but he still made it into the first sentence.
As for the game, no matter who starts for the Broncos, they’ll be overmatched in this game. Carson Palmer can only go up from that first performance. The Raiders need to keep Palmer in the game, even if he struggles. Oakland tried to go vertical last week, to no avail.
This week, the Raiders should ride their reliable running game (especially if Darren McFadden is back) and defense to victory over the identity-stricken Broncos.
Worth noting: Raiders have won the last four meetings, including a 59-14 triumph last season.
Pittsburgh Steelers over Baltimore Ravens
The Steelers are on a tear, and the Ravens can’t seem to share. Dr. Seuss jokes aside, this game is a must-watch for any diehard NFL fan.
Both teams play inspiring defense, but Pittsburgh’s offense seems to have found their identity. The Ravens need a big performance from quarterback Joe Flacco to win, but the Steelers secondary will clamp down on him.
Worth noting: Pittsburgh has won the last two playoff matchups between the two, but the Ravens destroyed the Steelers, 35-7 in Week 1 this year.